The Great Pittsburgh Scavenger Hunt: A Choose Your Own Adventure Story
Chapter 1: The Strip
It is a crisp, cool morning in the Steel City. Your car screeches to a grinding halt on the middle of the freeway. You are already late to work and your boss is not going to be happy. In fact, there’s a good chance you’re going to get fired. You’re kind of a deadbeat after all. Look at you, slobbing away at frozen meals and bad television when you could be out fixing your social life and making a name for yourself. Do you really just like being that average?
YES or NO?
You really are going to be difficult, aren’t you? Just remember that while you control the motion of your story, I control the outcomes. Just think, I could have your brake lines cut and you could careen into oncoming traffic. No one would miss you. Not even me. I do not tolerate smartassery in my book. But I am a generous narrator. Go back and pick no.
I’m glad you see things my way. Nobody wants to be average. Everybody wants to be extraordinary in their own way. With my help, you CAN be extraordinary. In fact, you will be.
You look on your passenger seat and notice the mail you picked up from the post office on your way to work. One letter in particular stands out to you. You pick it up and examine it. The envelope is an off-white color and appears to be made of expensive paper. A red wax stamp seals the envelope. A shield crest with the letters A.C. make up the seal.
Do you open the envelope?
You open the envelope to reveal a letter on papyrus.
The letter reads: “Dear Traveller: You have been chosen to participate in my fantastic scavenger hunt across the city of Pittsburgh and beyond. If you find all of the items that my people have hidden, you will be rewarded greatly. Each location will be marked with my seal seen on the wax of this letter. Be alert. There will be some who wish to hinder and steal your progress.
Your first location is within the Strip District.
Best of luck to you.
You smile. This is what you’ve always wanted. A chance to travel. A sense of adventure. This your moment now.
Well, that was kind of a waste of buying this book then wasn’t it? You think just because you pick the out of the box answer for the hell of it that you’re going to get rewarded? No. Not in this book. You want to know how this plays out for you? You go to work at the hotel that you are a busboy at. You stare longingly at the people who travel all around the world for work and wonder why that can’t be you. Too bad all you want to do is stay in your rinky-dink little apartment and slowly waste away. Your boss calls you into his office and fires you. You slowly lose the little savings that you put away. You can’t afford food or rent. You get evicted and have to live out on the streets. Nobody gives you spare change. You die just as you lived: forgotten and alone.
Go back and make the correct choice.
Traffic begins to move again. You veer to the right and exit. The Strip District is your destination. You arrive and are met by cavalcade of sounds and smells. The Strip District is home to many of the cities most authentic cuisines and some unique shops. All around you see different cultures of food represented. The area is bustling, despite it being so early in the day. Out of the corner of your eye, you see a small red shield glistening off the window of a nearby building.
Do you go towards the shield or explore the strip?
EXPLORE THE STRIP
It has been many years since you went to the strip, so you decide to explore for a bit. You wander into a Greek market known as Stamoolis Brothers Company. They have everything you could ever imagine when it comes to food. They have fresh flours and fruit, pop all the way from Athens itself, and rows and rows of cheese. You snag some cheese for the road. It’s going to be a long trip. You also into a little store called Art of Steel. They have gemstones and other little trinkets, but what they appeared to be most famous for were their toys. The toys were created from bicycle chains and other scrap parts. They were shaped like figures from pop culture such as Alien and Predator. You thought how you would’ve enjoyed those toys as a kid. If only you had known about this place.
GO TOWARDS THE SHIELD
You move towards the building that bears this strange crest. The building in question is known as Wholey’s Seafood Market. You find a note taped to the window.
It reads: “Inside you will find a fortress of glass with knights guarding its courtyard. Bring me the sword of a red knight.”
You stare at the riddle, confused. You decide to have a look inside. People are sprawled all throughout the establishment. There appears to be two sides of the market: An actual fish market and a grocery store like setting as well.
Where do you search? The fish market or the grocery store?
You browse the good at the grocery store side. There appears to be an obvious lack of seafood, bu they make it up with it with the abundance of various meats. They have your classic beef, chicken, and pork as well as less traditional and more pricey options such as bison, elk, and venison. As you venture more into the store, you see they have other store bought goods like pasta, condiments, and sweets. None of this appears to fit the description of your riddle. Nice try.
As you enter the fish market, you are it with a tidal wave of odors. It smells like you have been rolled into a piece of sushi. You examine the fish they have to offer. There’s everything from salmon and tuna to shrimp and crab to even swordfish and shark. You notice that in the back there is a setup of glass tanks holding a host of lobsters. Words from the riddle like “fortress of glass” and “red knight” begin to click inside your head. You walk over to the tanks and find a red lobster claw and another letter sitting on the lid of the tank. You put the claw in your pocket and open the next letter. It reads: “Congratulations, you have found your first item. Your next riddle is this: “This Irish patron has become nothing more than a day of partying and pleasure. Go pray to him.”
You exit the fish market and begin to think of the next location. You notice a sign for a building across the street that reads “Saint Patrick’s Church”. Adding all the clues up, you move towards the sign. As you look both ways to cross the street at the crosswalk, you notice a man in a black trenchcoat/fedora combo is staring at you from a distance.
Do you make for the church or approach him?
APPROACH THE MYSTERIOUS MAN
You begin to walk towards the man. You notice that he is wearing dark sunglasses and he had a finely trimmed black beard. He stands at about 6’0” and clearly works out often.
You ask, “Can I help you?”
He simply shakes his head and pulls a pistol out of his inner coat pocket. He takes two shots at point blank range and kills you. Sorry pal.
HEAD TO THE CHURCH
You ignore the man and cross the street. You heads towards the church of Saint Patrick. A beautiful garden adorns the entrance of a church. You walk up to the doors and notice a red seal on a placard parallel to the door. You know you are in the right place. You walk inside the church and are greeted by even more flowers. The inside of the church looks like something out of Rome itself. In fact, it even has a replica of the Holy Stairs that sinners climb to repent. You examine the stairs and even think of climbing them, but you think about how your old life is likely behind you now. You are a blank slate and that makes you smile. You begin to walk up the stairs and observe the church itself. Light reflects in the stained glass windows and the church dazzles with radiant brilliance. You look around and see the pews and the altar. You do not see anything that resembles a seal, so you go back downstairs. At a table on the opposite side of the lobby area, you notice a red seal. You walk over towards it and notice a green rosary with a new letter inside. Behind you, there is a kneeler with white, embroidered padding. You take a minute to pray for this new opportunity in life. To be an adventurer. To be daring. This is all new to you. It can only go up from here, right?
Chapter 2: The Eyes on the Wall
Your eyes open. You are still at St. Patrick’s church. You rise from the kneeler and move to the table with letter with the seal on it. You grab the green rosary and put it in your pocket with the lobster claw. You decide you’re going to need something to carry all these items. You pick up the next clue and read it.
The letter reads:
“Very few know that I am here
Angels guard me from evil
Nothing can stop His arrival
Karma comes to the wicked
And I will watch with glee”
You start to wonder what this could mean, but then you crack the code. You examine the letters of the first letter of each line and realize it spells out “VANKA”. You have heard this name before. You pull out your handy-dandy smartphone and find a page on the Maxa Vanka and find out they are displayed at a church in Millvale. You make your way there.
As you find your parked car, you find an old backpack behind the passenger’s seat. You quickly grab it and put the rosary and lobster claw inside the bag.
Within minutes, you are at the destination. Saint Nicholas Croatian Catholic Church. You begin to wonder if all the locations are going to be in churches. You walk inside the church, noticing the seal as a sticker on the glass window next to the door. Once inside, you notice the murals adorning all sides of the wall. In addition, you notice the altar and the tabernacle in the center of the church.
Do you examine the murals or head to the altar?
EXAMINE THE MURALS
You begin to examine the murals along the walls of the church. They are beautiful images of scenes from the Old and New Testament. As you venture, the images begin to get increasingly gruesome. Images of poverty, inequality, and war. You come to one painting in particular that sticks with you. It is the angel known as Injustice. Through a gas mask, he stares you down like he is going to climb off that wall and damn you to Hell. You walk away, terrified.
HEAD TO THE ALTAR
You walk up to the altar, with the tabernacle in the back. The tabernacle is bigger than any you have previously known. It is shaped like a cathedral and holy figures are depicted on it. It is also crowned with the most extravagant mural of the Virgin Mary holding the baby Christ. You notice a letter is wedged in the tabernacle door, keeping it open. You grab the letter and open the door. Inside, a golden necklace with a Croatian cross lay on the red velvet padding. You grab it and put it in your backpack. Then, you open the letter and read the next clue. It says:
“Bikes on bikes you will find
But only one contains the clue
From a movie long forgotten
Tell them Large Marge sent you.”
You ponder over this one for a while and begin to walk out of the church. You are so fixated on the letter than you accidentally run into a man. You apologize and look up. It is the man that was watching you in the Strip District. He grabs the clue from your hand and looks at it, grinning devilishly. You go to ask his name, but he puts his gloved hand over your mouth.
“You don’t need to know who I am. All you need to know is that this game you are playing is over. The prize is mine and I will kill for it. Go home before you get hurt.”
He turns around and exits the building. You hear him mumble the words “Bicycle Heaven” as he leaves.
This scavenger hunt is fun, but is it worth your life? Do you continue despite the man’s warnings?
I am sorry to hear that. I guess when my life is threatened I would be rather terrified too. You go back to your apartment and begin to sob into your pillow. You begin to look for a new job in the paper. A better job. Weeks go by. You make severals calls, but get no returns. You sit and wonder if you made the right choice.
Excellent! You’re not going to let one guy in a trench coat stop you from winning the grand prize are you? You walk out of the church and make your way to Bicycle Heaven, which is only a few minutes away. The world’s largest bicycle museum right here in Pittsburgh’s backyard. Who would’ve thought? The door bears the seal’s mark and you smile. You walk inside and are bombarded with bicycles. They have old bikes, new bikes, broken bikes, mint condition bikes, steel bikes, wooden bikes. Any bike you can imagine, they have it. You weave down the labyrinth of wheels and see a set of stairs. You go up the stairs and are met with even more bikes. These bikes are guarded by the occasional cardboard cutout of Elvis. One red bike stands out in the center, but you have no idea of its significance. You begin to walk towards it when the man in the trench coat walks into your peripheral vision. You quickly dart and hide behind the nearest wall. A TV is playing a movie beside you. You hear the line “Tell them Large Marge sent ya” and glance over. The movie playing is Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. Images flash on screen of his attempts to reclaim his bike, which is the same as the one in the center of the room. You look to see if the trench coat guy is still there. He is going up and down the rows, examining the bikes. His back is turned.
Do you make a run for the bike or do you sneak quietly?
MAKE A RUN FOR IT
You begin to run towards the bike. The man in the trench coat quickly turns around, pulls out a gun, and shoots you in the head. Game over.
You crouch and tip toe over to the bike. You examine and it quickly, but thoroughly. Inside the bike basket there is a letter and a bike horn.
You grab the bike horn and letter and try to sneak back out of the bicycle museum. You look around for the trench coat guy. His back is turned still as he examine bikes on the far right side of the room. You notice he dropped his wallet near the stairs. You pick it up and quickly run back to your car.
Chapter 3: Outside the City
You make it back to your car and throw the bicycle horn into your backpack. Next, you open the wallet of the man in the trench coat. You find out his name is Tom Cruise. The actor? Tom Cruise? Here? Why is he after the prize? Why is he trying to kill you? Why is he wearing trench coat? What a twist. You put the wallet down and open the letter. It reads:
“It is time for you to travel outside the city. While Pittsburgh hold much art, there is a burg of Greens that holds the steel legend of Pittsburgh. Find him.”
You look on your map and find the small city of Greensburg. It appears to hold the art museum for the entire county. That must be where the clue is taking you. You venture towards there.
You arrive at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art. From the outside, it looks like a courthouse attached to a botanical garden. You walk in and see a paper bearing the crest attached to the door. You walk to the front desk and they make you aware that your admission has been paid for. You walk around and notice the exquisite pieces of art. A mural dedicated to a “Pittsburgh legend” is supposed to be on the second floor.
Do you search this mural or do you explore.
You begin to explore the art museum and find several beautiful paintings and sculptures. However, none of this is what you are looking for. I lined this one up pretty well, so you know where to go.
SEARCH THE MURAL
You travel up to the second floor and find the mural. It is dedicated to Joe Magarac, who was the Paul Bunyan of the steel industry. The description his tall tale said he was born out of a mountain that he was literally a man of steel. On the ground underneath the mural, there is a letter and a piece of steel pipe. You exit the museum and head back to your car. You gaze to the left and notice an alley riddled with art. You see angel wing, musical instruments, and even Alice and the Cheshire Cat. You smile and continue walking.
Chapter 4: Product Placement
After getting to your car, you open the next letter. The letter this time comes with a flyer for a wrestling event called “Pitt Fight”. The letter merely says:
“To get the gold, you have to win the gold.”
You look at the Pitt Fight event begins in a half hour at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg campus. Luckily for you, this is not a far drive. You make it there in less than ten minutes. You head into the gym and find a bleacher seat. The show begins and you are amazed. You loved wrestling as a kid and remembered that Pittsburgh is home to many wrestling legends including Bruno Sammartino and Kurt Angle. The wrestling show has all sorts of contenders. There are cavemen, lawyers, police officers, Italians, fashionistas, brawlers, heavyweights, high flyers, champions, and rising stars. It was a great show and you definitely want to attend the next one. But now, all your thinking about is how to “win the gold”. Two options come to mind: going to the locker room or competing in the ring.
Which do you choose?
COMPETE IN THE RING
You climb down from the bleachers and hop over the barricades. Then, you climb up the stairs, through the ropes and into the ring. You grab a microphone that was laying in the ring and challenge any competitor so that you can become champion. Some loud rock music plays and a large man comes out to answer your challenge. The crowd begins to chanting the name “Bulk Nasty”. He climbs up the steps and over the ring ropes. He yells in your face, picks you up, and powerbombs you so hard that the ring floor collapses. You die on impact.
HEAD TO THE LOCKER ROOM
You exit the gym and walk upstairs to go to the locker room. As you are walking down the hallway towards the locker room, a man grabs you and shoves you against the wall. Your back hits the wall hard and you wince in pain. You look up and realize the aggressor is none other than Tom Cruise.
“Surprised to see me,” he asks, “Well, I wasn’t just going to leave well enough alone after you failed to heed my warning and stole my wallet. The Church of Scientology has sent me on a very important mission and I’m not going to let some nobody jeopardize it. Now, I’m going to–”
At this moment, Tom Cruise hit in the head by a wild right hand which knocks him out instantly. A wrestler appears. He has a big smile across his face and has long, curly brown hair. He holds out his hand and goes:
“Andrew Palace, nice to meet you! That guy seemed to be a real bother. Come to the locker room with me! I have something I’m supposed to give you!”
You follow Palace to the locker room. Many of the wrestlers have left already. But Palace and another man are inside. This man was smaller than Palace, but had blood painted on his face and wore red contacts.
“Gory, this is the guy we were supposed to wait for,” said Palace.
“I see,” he nods, “Name’s Gory. Pleased to meet you.”
Gory reaches into his back and pulls out two title belts. One is the Pitt Fight Championship, which he just won. The other was a bet bearing the shield crest.
“This is you,” Gory said.
You take the belt and notice a letter is taped to the inside of the belt. You smile and shake Gory and Palace’s hands. You exit the locker room and notice that Tom Cruise is not in the hallway anymore. He will still prove to be an obstacle, but for now you are one step closer to winning it all. You put the title belt in your car, but first you get a selfie with it around your waist.
Chapter 5: City of Steel
You open the next letter. Inside you see a black and white picture of what appears to be some sort of steel mill. It says “Carrie 1904”. You quickly search and find the address for the Carrie Furnace and make your way there. You make it there in under an hour. It is dark and the entrance to the furnace is locked shut. You drive through the locked gate, smashing it open. You park your car, noticing that someone else is parked here. The mill door is open. You also noticed a graffitied wall across the field and an entrance to the lower furnace. Which do you enter?
You enter the mill area. The room is mostly empty, save the smelting station in the middle of the room. You look around and do not find a crest. You quickly exit the room.
You begin your descent into the lower furnace area. It is dark and damp. All you hear is the dripping of rain drops. The furnace roof is only a couple feet above your head. You feel confined and claustrophobic, like you are in some sort of horror movie. You think your footsteps coming from behind you. You turn around and are met with a lead pipe to the forehead. You fall unconscious. Tom Cruise picks up your body and throws it in a nearby smelting water hole. Your body sinks and you drown. Better luck next time.
You make your way over to the graffitied wall and notice that the crest has been spray painted on with all of the other art. At the base of the wall, you find the next letter and piece of quartz among a pile of anthracite coal. You walk back to the entrance and make it back to your car. You get in and throw the quartz into your backpack. As you do, Tom Cruise begins to walk back from the field. You notice him as he gets closer to you. You fumble your keys, throw them into the ignition, and drive away as fast as you can.
Chapter 6: Mystery Revealed
You drive about five miles before pulling off to read the next letter. It reads:
“Pittsburgh is not just a city of steel, but a city of asylum. Find the poem.”
There is also included a picture of house with Chinese letter decorating the exterior. You google this house and realize it is not far away from your location. You drive there in a matter of minutes. The house is along an alley with many other artistically designed houses. This is the City of Asylum: a refuge for persecuted writers. You find the poem house hidden among other brightly painted houses. An envelope sits at the base of the staircase. The letter inside reads:
“There are two final clues hidden in this area. One is the foundation of a Mason temple owned by the City of Asylum. The other you must find Randy.”
Which do you go to first?
You wander along the streets and wind up at a bookstore belonging to creators of the City of Asylum. It is almost closing time for them, so you make your way among the rows. There are books of every kind lining the shelves. The colorful covers begin to steal your attention, but you quickly change your mind when you see a crest leading downstairs. You follow it and are led to a theater like room crafted totally of stone. On the screen, you find a rock with a Stonemason symbol taped to the projector screen. You quickly grab it and run out.
As you trek through the area, you come across a small little area that looks like it came straight out of the 1960’s. The sign above signals that this place is known as Randyland. This clearly must be where Randy is, so you run inside. You find Tom Cruise holding a man at gunpoint.
“Where is the clue Randy? Give it to me,” he yells.
You find a shovel buried in the sand nearby, but you also find a glass orb on the ground near it. The orb has the crest carved into it.
Do you take the clue and run or do you help Randy?
TAKE THE ORB AND RUN
You grab the orb and attempt to sprint out of there. However, you trip over a table and a lot of glass falls and shatters. This alerts Tom Cruise, who turns around and shoots you dead in the eyes. That’s what you get for being greedy.
You pick up the shovel and clonk Tom Cruise in the back of the head. He falls to ground. Randy runs over and hugs you,
“Thank you for saving me,” he shouts “I’ll take care of Mr. Goody Two Shoes here and have him arrested. Here take this orb. It was always meant for you anyways. The final clue is in a place of rest. Go and find a home there.”
You take the orb and nod, walking out of Randyland. You walk back towards your car and find a museum known as the Mattress Factory. Place of rest. This has to be the place. You run inside and discover that the museum is closing. You ask to be let it, and much like the Westmoreland art museum they tell you your admission is already paid for. You walk around and see many disturbing exhibits. There are creepy dolls and strange painting. You come to a floor that is completely blacked out and find a room with a single blue screen. It looks a projector. You see a crest on the inside. It turns out the “screen” is an optical illusion and you can reach your hand through. You find a paint brush and the final envelope. All it says “Vincent’s Pizza Park”.
You get in your car and drive there. The place is about twenty minutes away. As you park, an elderly man waits at the door.
“I suppose you won the challenge. Good, he’s been waiting for you. I’ll grab you a slice.”
Another man is sitting at a table by himself. He calls you over. You walk over and sit down. The man is older and is wearing a white suit with a red tie. The man was pompous, slightly balding, and had a bushy white beard. He also held a black cane with a golden top.
“Show me the items you found,” he speaks.
You pull out all of the items from your backpack and he smiles. At this time, the other man bring back two giant pieces of pizza covered in a cesspool of grease.
“I’m glad you returned with the items. You saved the spirit of Pittsburgh. You saved the city I built and made great. Thank you. Your rewards will be transferred to you shortly. My riches are yours. You do know who I am, don’t you?”
You shake your head no.
“Well, let’s just say I am a legend from your history books. Please eat up and do take care of yourself now. You have your whole life ahead of you after all.”
You gaze outside and ponder that. You really do have your whole life now and it is time time to make something of it. You turn to see the man has vanished. You quickly scarf down your pizza and walk out to the car. Inside, several boxes have appeared in your backseat. The phrase “Carnegie thanks you” are labeled on top. You look inside to find several stacks of hundred dollar bills. You smile. Time to take on some new cities perhaps?